Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Ball is Round II

The following entry was started in late November but was never fully published. I can't for the life of me remember why I stopped writing but I'm sure it had to do something with Thanksgiving break at home, graduate school finals, Christmas break at home, and finally New Years here in the city. At any rate, I hope you enjoy it.


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It was about six weeks ago, on a Friday night, that a fellow graduate classmate spoke to me about a club soccer team at The New School. The next day I got up and made my way from Bushwick to the practice site (pier40). It was the first time, since my brief stint living in Buenos Aires, that I took the subway(soccer ball in hand) with the destination of playing soccer. Upon arriving at Pier 40, I was really pleased to see that there was, in fact, a New School club soccer team in the works. There were about twenty players, both male and female, working on ball control drills. They were led by an undergraduate student who I now know to be Ashim Joshi or as his peers call him - "Ash". As I understand it, Ash and some fellow teammates came up with the idea of creating a club soccer team at The New School last spring. They wanted to tap into the unrefined and under-appreciated athletic talent pool that The New School has at its disposal but very rarely let shine. This is almost all due to the fact that The New School is not an NCAA affiliated institution and that no student enrolls in The New School with dreams of becoming a professional athlete. Although, in some sense last spring Ash and his friends were dreaming. The New School had never had a club soccer team but that didn't mean that it wasn't full of soccer players.

After about five minutes of participating in the drills, Ash and I met and he asked if I was the guy who wanted to help out as a coach. I said that I was in fact that guy and this response seemed to please him as he said, "Great! I'd love to just focus on playing". The rest of the practice seems like a blur now but my hopes of helping out on the technical and tactical side of the team was in motion. 

I'm going to now fast forward to this past Saturday, the 23rd of November. In between that first practice and this past weekend, I met with the team about four times. During these practices, we worked on everything from set-pieces, to possession drills, to improving our first touch , to even talking about our defensive shape, etc. I could talk for much longer about each individual practice and what I wanted the team to gain from each session but even I find this soccer babble to be boring. So, I'll save you the boring stuff and let's fast forward to this past Saturday. A day that will undoubtedly always be remembered in the minds of those who played and those who came to watch.

The New School's inaugural club soccer game started around 2:00 PM on this past Saturday, the 23rd of November. Before I get into the game itself, I'd like to talk about the unique dynamic of the team as a whole. Soccer or football(not the Tom Brady type) has and always will be the world's sport, so it's no surprise that the team would be made up of mostly international students. Out of the seventeen players, there are more than 11 countries represented and about 13 different languages spoken. There are undergraduate and graduate students. There are sixteen males and one female. There are two goal keepers and 15 field players.


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From what I can remember, it was cold. In an anxious dash out of my house, I forgot to grab a hat and was lucky enough that a New School friend, Vanessa Palacio, brought me one. Due to the rather limited space before the game, the team was unable to do a proper warm-up and considering the weather that day we were lucky that no one pulled muscles or sustained a long-term injury. The game, like any other soccer game before it, was 90 minutes. At half-time we found ourselves behind by two goals. While we had scored first, we had managed to give up three soft goals including an own goal. The feeling at half-time was indicative of the entire first half's run of play - that we, while behind, were in control of our own destiny. The players felt confident in a second half come-back but would that be enough to overturn a three goal deficit? Not only did we dominate possession and have the lion's share of opportunities on goal but we kept a clean sheet, which in my opinion, was the most impressive part of the second half. With about twenty minutes left on the clock, we scored our second goal of the half and third of the game. It was at this point where we abandoned the need to defend and adopted a more adventurous approach to the game along the lines of -  "the best defense is a good offense". I don't actually remember in what minute the final goal was scored but it had to have been in the closing moments of the game. The eight to ten minutes following the scoring of the fourth and winning goal were some of the longest moments in my personal sporting career.

When the final whistle blew, all the fans that had gathered to watch, for many of them their first soccer game, charged the field. We had done it. We had won our first game. They say that you're only as good as your last game and when your entire season is only one game you have a unique opportunity to go big or go home. We were lucky enough to do both. We won and then we went home. I'd say bout 93% of the New School student body has absolutely no idea that the New School even has a Club Soccer team. The players from that day, all 17 of them, left the field that day like they had played in the final game in the movie Varsity Blues but returned to classes on Monday as if nothing had ever happened.  The post game celebratory feeling will forever be ingrained in those who there on that windy November day. The Narwhals had done it(Yes, that's the New School's mascot). We had won our first game.


Warm-up Vista.


The team playing "possession" to warm-up. 
Pre-Game team photo with the President(center) and Athletic Director(right). 

Unfortunately, I was unable to take any photos during the game. The following photos are from the post-game celebration. 

Gnarls - New School Mascot


Thanks Vanessa for the hat and the sign!


I'm currently working with the school's director of athletics to organize games for this spring. If you're in the New York City area this spring and want to see some good soccer, let me know!  As soon as I have information on the spring schedule I'll be sure to put it up here. This link will take you take the New School's athletic website which has the official game write-up.  Until next time, stay warm and play indoor soccer!

My new blog photo is from that day's warm-up. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Two Year Tourist

If you click on the links throughout the blog, it will make for an exponentially better blogging experience. A link can be denoted by green text. Enjoy!

I created this blog in the spring of 2011 as a way "for me to share my experiences with the outside world i.e. friends and family". At that time, I was writing all my entries from the highlands of Guatemala and my day to day routine was very different, if not foreign, from those of my audience. So, I wonder if my audience will still find my day to day as captivating as it once was when I was writing from the mountains of Guatemala or the coast of Colombia. I guess we'll just have to find out. However, as I write you from my apartment in Bushwick, Brooklyn, one thing is for sure. While I've returned to the United States of America, I wonder, especially as I'm now a part of the "melting pot of the melting pot", whether I'll ever stop feeling like a tourist?


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New York City -  Where to begin? As James Shimer so delicately put it - it's the "melting pot of the melting pot". It's a city whose inhabitants have come from all over the world. In the New York City public school system alone there are more than a 180 languages spoken. It's a place where hearing foreign languages on the subway is the rule and not the exception. New York City is a breeding ground for a new dialect that has and will only continue to flourish among Latin/Hispanic communities in the US - spanglish. The photo below is an example of how even the major beer companies are incorporating this dialect into their advertising. The city's promise of success through hard work has made it into a beacon for those seeking the American dream. It's this notion of reward through dedicated hard work, or "hustle" as my roommate Lusmaia refers to it, that is an omnipresent and often times suffocating feeling that the city emits.  A feeling that is almost Darwinian in nature. A feeling that there's always someone out there who is working harder than you and for that you should never rest. This gives way to the reason that this city never sleeps. However, I don't live in New York City. I live in Brooklyn. 




I currently live in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Bushwick is one of the many neighborhoods that comprise Brooklyn.  Brooklyn, if it were its own city, would be the third largest city in the US behind New York City and Los Angeles respectively. Brooklyn was actually its own city until the late 1900s. In truth, I live in New York City as Brooklyn is a part of the US' largest metropolis but Brooklyn simply isn't part of the "Sex and the City" NYC that one might think of when they envision The Big Apple.  Brooklyn has its own unique cultural identity which, these days, is an infusion of alternative fashion, varied genres of music, and art. 



There are many nights I fall asleep to the clashing sounds of Hector Lavoe, a Puerto Rican salsa legend, and Drake, a popular Toronto hip-hop artist. The neighbors to my left are Puerto Rican and thus enjoy the sounds of Hector Lavoe while my neighbors to the right prefer a more urban feel like that of Drake. While I must admit that these are my two favorite genres of music, I can also say that I never enjoy them being played simultaneously. One of my favorite parts about living in Brooklyn is the amount of free and public music events that are always going on. About a month ago, I went to an outdoor hip-hop block party where I was fortunate enough to see one of the god-fathers of the genre - Ali Shaheed Muhammad.  Ali is most known for his work with the group A Tribe Called Quest. I've been listening to "A Tribe" since I was a junior in High School and so finally seeing him on the turntables was unforgettable. The pictures below are from the event. 


Ali Shaheed Muhammad on the turntables. 


Dance Circle.


Lusmaia, Tuxedo T-shirt, Luz Karime and Luis' happy face!


People playing Ping-Pong in the street and enjoying Ali's beats.


As far as fashion goes, please watch this video. It describes the lifestyle of a "hipster" which I find almost impossible to define. I can say that in Brooklyn, you're never out of style.  I promise you anything goes.  Last week, while waiting for my local train to take me to school in Manhattan, a woman walked past me on the platform wearing an entire see-through white spandex dress thing. It looked very similar to this costume the lead singer from the Darkness wears in this music video. While you may think I'm joking, I honestly wonder if she bought it at an online celebrity "Darkness the band" charitable auction. The only thing that made this moment more priceless was the mutterings of a couple sitting on the bench waiting for the train - " Uuuuh, doesn't she know it's past Labor Day". 


Art can be seen in many ways in Brooklyn. The Brooklyn Museum is supposed to be great and I look forward to visiting it.  Many artists live here and work in Manhattan as rent is, on the whole, cheaper. However, it's the street art that I love. Graffiti is everywhere. World renown street artist Banksy is currently in New York City and so his art is popping up all over the city but especially in Brooklyn. The pictures below are a personal sampling of the kind of street-art I've encountered in my short time in Brooklyn. 

Lusmaia and BUSHWICK.


Doctored up version of LOVE ME which I see everyday before I cross the Williamsburg Bridge to Manhattan.








There was an office chair . . . just sitting there.

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I'd like to now step-back and talk about why I moved to Brooklyn. I arrived to Brooklyn on August the 16th and on that following Monday, the 19th, I began orientation for Graduate School at The New School. The New School is located in Manhattan between Union Square and Washington Square Park. My particular program is out of the Milano School of International Affairs, Management and Urban Policy. Yes, I know it's a mouth full. I'm currently pursuing an International Affairs Master with, at this point, an undefined concentration. I'm leaning towards either Development or Governance and Rights. 

I'm currently enrolled in three classes which is a normal course load for a first-semester graduate student. I'm taking an introductory course for my particular program, International Affairs, called Global Flows, a required economic class, and an elective entitled "Health, Inequality, and Development". My classes are engaging and I have classmates from all over the world. It's this dynamic classroom atmosphere and the school's location in New York City that are giving a real international feel to my graduate school experience. It's this sentiment coupled with the school's dedication to thinking about "global" affairs, both from a theory and practice standpoint, that are making me very satisfied with my decision to have come to The New School!

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I've now been living here for almost eight weeks. It's been an adventure, to say the least. I decided to entitle this entry the "two year tourist" because I don't think I'll ever completely understand New York City. Like a tourist, each day has been an adventure;I've gone somewhere new; I've met new people; I'm overwhelmed by something in the aesthetic that the city has to offer me; I've gotten lost or overly relied on the Google Maps App on my phone. Could this be a temporary phase tied into the "honeymoon period" associated with just having moved here? I don't think it is. I'll never consider myself a "New Yorker" no matter how long I live here. So, I think that that lends itself to the idea that I'll always be an outsider. An outsider who enjoys living and studying in the greatest city on earth. 

Please leave a comment if you'd like me to talk about a certain aspect of my experience in the city. The food, the rent, the subway, the weather, etc.


Monday, September 23, 2013

June 2013 - Despedidas and Bogotá

Well, it's been more than a minute since my last post. I'm currently writing this from an academic building at the New School in Manhattan, New York but I'll get to that soon enough.

I'd like to first share with you some pictures of my last days in Colombia . . .

These photos are from my town "despedidas" - going away parties. The ones from the pool party were with my English class and the others are from my MUEVETE class. Both of these classes are highlighted in this blog entry.

Domino

Helping Marta with her camera.

Preparing the meat.






DANCE!
 MUEVETE!
And again!

The next group of photos are from my "despedida" at the Peace Corps office. In true Latin American fashion, I had to "dar palabras" or give some closing thoughts. 
JFK.

Yes, I'm still talking . . .

Finally, I rang the s&#$ out of that bell. 



Thank you Peace Corps Colombia. It was a wild 38 months with the US Peace Corps but I'd do it again. I could write more about what the Peace Corps has meant to me but I think I'll just leave it at that. Gracias!
¡Thanks to all my costeño friends!

Thanks Eric and Drew for being great Response Amigos. Eric, I hope that Fiji is treating you well and know that Drew and I fully expect you to send us some warm weather come January!

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I COS'ed (Close of Service) from the Peace Corps on June 13th, 2013. The following day I left for Bogotá. I spent the next four days and three nights exploring Bogotá. The following photos are from this amazing stop over in the city of my birth.  I was fortunate enough to spend time with my College advisor, professor, and friend - Michael LaRosa. 

 Professor LaRosa
Anthony Bourdain ate here. Now, it's a tourist trap. 

LaRosa's abode in Bog.

 This is FANA. FANA is the orphanage where my sister and I were adopted from. I visited their "new" location which is located on the outskirts of the city. Their "old" location where I was actually adopted from is located more in the downtown area. While in Bog, I stayed in a friend's apartment. Thanks Shay! Ironically, Shay's apartment is no more than three blocks away from where the original FANA building was that I was actually adopted from in 1987. Crazy, right?
 FANA!
The Florence Crittenton League is a local Massachusetts adoption agency that worked with my parents to make my adoption possible.

Around 10,000 children have been adopted from FANA. This is just one of the many moving file cabinets that house the thousands upon thousands of files. I was luck enough to see my file, although due to Colombian law I was unable to make photo copies or take it home with me. 

Since it's opening, six children have grown up and come back to adopt from FANA. There are FANA children in Europe, Australia, the US, and even in Beverly, Massachusetts.

This is portrait of Mercedes. She founded Fana. Her passing was deeply mourned at the orphanage and in the FANA community. Her daughters still work at FANA. 


The orphanage itself is very big. Every hallway was filled with these type of picture frames. They're filled with photos of FANA children and their new families. Truly something you just have to see.


I was also able to meet and talk with some of the nurses. I spoke with two nurses who have been working at FANA since 1983, so it's more than likely that those women held me when I was an infant. Below is the picture!


The whole FANA experience was beautiful. It was so surreal that I still don't believe it ever actually happened. It was a long time coming but I feel so grateful to have had the opportunity to go back  and get to know FANA. 

Lift up to the top of Monserrate. 

Going up to Monserrate

The city. 

Are my eyes open?



Downtown.

STOP!


Bog.
 Missing that Andean Sun!


I want to thank Mike LaRosa for taking the time to accompany me throughout the city. 
Gracias Mike!


The following links are to music videos from Monserrate. They're from an awesome Colombian band - BOMBA ESTERO. Check em out!



Colombia has and will always be a big part of my life. Leaving Colombia was one of the most emotional and difficult things I've ever had to do. Serving, as a Peace Corps Volunteer, in the country of my birth was not something every kid gets the chance to do. I look forward to returning to Colombia and hope that one day my sister, Diana, will come with me to visit FANA. I hope that you've enjoyed these pictures and promise to get to my new life in New York with the New School in the next entry!